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Newfoundland and Labrador set ag goals for the next five years

Newfoundland and Labrador set ag goals for the next five years

The province wants to double its level of food self-sufficiency by 2022

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter

Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial government, along with farmers, want to increase the amount of locally produced food by 2022.

The province is about 10 per cent self-sufficient, according to a 43-point Sector Work Plan released by legislators, farmers and non-profit food organizations in October.

By 2022, Newfoundland and Labrador want to be 20 per cent food self-sufficient. And every ag sector has room to grow, according to Merv Wiseman, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

“Every sector within the industry can benefit from this initiative,” Wiseman told today. “We currently import 99 per cent of the red meat consumed in this province and about 90 per cent of (our) vegetables. And when you look at potatoes specifically, we only grow potatoes on 1,400 acres.

“Those are some areas where we can increase our production efforts and reduce the amount of food we import.”

Increasing food production also leads to an increased infrastructure, which means jobs and economic development for rural communities, he added.

To achieve some of these goals, farmers will need access to land.

So the provincial government has pledged to make 64,000 hectares (158,147 acres) of land available to farmers.

The land has always been there but accessing it has been challenging, Wiseman said.

“From a farmer standpoint, whether new or existing, getting access to that land has been hard,” he said. “I’ve heard some people have had to wait almost five years to access even a small parcel of land. A two or three-year wait is considered normal.”

The 43-point work plan also includes items related to agricultural employment and education.

Officials will study labour market recruitment, retention and emerging training needs of the ag industry and continue to provide post-secondary education in agriculture. They will also identify options to establish an inspected abattoir for the production of meat products in the province, for example.